For most of Paolo's life, Sam and I have been trying to out-parent each other. We're just naturally competitive people, at least with each other. I give better baths; Sam makes better desserts. I pick out great books at the library; Sam makes pirate ships out of living room couches. We don't have a running total of points or anything, but we're always aware of who is wearing the crown of Better Parent at any given moment.
Imagine my distress when I lost my crown this weekend. In anticipation of Paolo's dreaded Valentine's Day class party (dreaded by me, of course), I grabbed some valentine cards at the store. I mean grabbed quite literally. There was a crowd of parents and children huddled around the colorful boxes, engaged in heavy supplication and negotiation. I have no patience at these moments. I saw a box of Star Wars cards; I swooped; I moved on. It wasn't until much later that I actually looked at the contents. Hmmm. Whose bright idea was it to make valentines scary? Some of the cards are cute, with droids and Yoda and whatnot. But the Emperor? He's not a pleasant-looking dude. Plus a stern Anakin with scarred face, Darth Vader striking a blow, and a glaring Obi-Wan. I joked that I'd give the scariest ones to Paolo's classmates who I like the least. Alright, I was more planning than joking, but Sam put that idea down like a lame racehorse. "You cannot give these to three-year-olds. You just can't. I'll pick up some other cards tomorrow, and we'll just keep these for Paolo to play with." There was no fight in me. He was right, and I'd been dethroned.
This morning we were running terribly late, so Sam took Paolo to school. When he picked me up for lunch, I saw Paolo's naptime cot bedding still in the back seat of the car. Now, I know the daycare center has spare sheets because I've forgotten once myself, but I didn't let on. I pointed at the forgotten sheet, blanket and pillow and imagined aloud our poor child shivering on his naked cot, his hands balled into fists beneath his unsupported head. As Sam's jaw dropped in genuine horror, he moaned, "I am the worst parent in the world." And because I so rarely have the opportunity, I assured him he was correct.